When I learned at the beginning of this semester that my beat would be the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, I knew I had lucked out. Not only is the JS the local paper and therefore reporting on the events happening around me, but it is an award-winning news service dedicated to putting out high-quality content in all areas of journalism.

I was continually impressed throughout the semester with their coverage. Milwaukee is not a major market, but the Journal Sentinel makes it look like one of the most important cities in the nation. 

I was most impressed with their coverage in my own particular area of interest, the sports section. They do an incredible job of covering all of the various Wisconsin sports and making them relevant on a national level. I especially enjoyed following the Marquette basketball blog written by veteran JS reporter Michael Hunt. Reading Hunt's posts and interacting with him while we both covered the games improved my reporting skills over the course of the semester.

The Journal Sentinel impressed me when I had no trouble completing any of my assignments for the class. They had every major news story covered in earnest and still found time for excellent local content. Even their opinion page captured my attention for an assignment last week.

Overall, I realize now how lucky I was to have such a quality and accessible media outlet to cover for my beat this semester. I will certainly go to the Journal Sentinel for future Marquette news, and maybe I'll even see my name in its pages in a few years. I can only dream.
 
 
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The Journal Sentinel ripped the 46 senators who voted against gun control legislation in a recent editorial.
"Cowards."

This is the first sentence of the Journal Sentinel's editorial on the senate's failure to pass the gun legislation that would have expanded background checks for people looking to purchase a gun. 

Aside from the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, this was probably the biggest national news story of last week. Needing 60 votes to pass through the senate, the bill failed after 46 senators voted against it. 

According to the Journal Sentinel's editorial, the senators "fell for the National Rifle Associations' prevarications" when they voted against the bill. They asserted that the bill would have made the streets safer and closed out loopholes for purchasing guns at shows without background checks. They also stressed the nations general support for the bill, using a hyperlinked article that showed nine in 10 Americans supported it.

The editorial board invoked powerful instances of gun violence in the past few years, such as the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary and the attempted assassination of congresswoman Gabby Giffords. They also launched into a tirade about the NRA having the senate in their grasp and lying about the bill. 

Regardless of my own personal feelings about the bill failing, I was thoroughly impressed that the JS editorial board didn't pull any punches while getting their point across. They stressed the necessity to "defeat the gun lobby" in order to end gun violence in everyday life in the US. The paper went right after the NRA and the 46 senators who voted against the bill, calling them cowards from the start. They were aggressive and convince their point was the correct one, and that enhances any great editorial.
 
 
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Mira Lowe, senior features editor for CNN Digital, shared advice and insight in our class Wednesday.
Almost immediately, Mira Lowe said something worth taking down.

"The homepage is the door to the house," said the senior features editor for CNN Digital.

The compelling conversation lasted for the entire hour-and-fifty minute period, and made for an intriguing Wednesday afternoon. Here are a few bullet points of important nuggets Lowe mentioned:

- CNN's online viewership is male-dominated. Lowe oversees five sections at CNN: living, travel, entertainment, tech and health. All five average more male viewers than female viewers. Lowe is attempting to make her pages geared more towards females to remedy the imbalance.

- CNN has a vast collection of blogs that cover anything from breaking news to religion. My favorite blog feature was the live blogging events schedule that Lowe showed us. As a frequent live blogger, I see the potential this medium has.

- "The Gift of Charles" is one of the most powerful pieces of journalism I have experienced in a while. I was moved by the story and impressed by all of the different platforms the story was told on.

- iReport presents a great opportunity for journalists trying to earn 15 minutes of fame. The citizen journalism model it promotes is brilliantly convenient for CNN, since it allows them to post reports without sending reporters everywhere.

- Fun fact: the peak times for traffic on CNN are 11 a.m. to noon, the early afternoon, the end of the day and 6 a.m. in the morning. As such, CNN posts articles at these times to attract the most attention possible.

Mrs. Lowe's visit was a unique opportunity and I truly enjoyed getting to know her and hearing her words of wisdom.
 
 
I was excited to get a bunch of fresh content to critique as a part of our CNN.com assignment. Our "news peg" for this post stems from having CNN Digital's Mira Lowe in class this upcoming Wednesday. She curates five different "channels" on CNN's website: entertainment, tech, health, living and travel. I found some positives in each page's construction and found each far superior to the comparable sections at my assigned beat, JS Online.

The CNN.com entertainment page was certainly comprehensive. Besides compelling top stories at the top of the section (including an interesting one on the world in which "Mad Men" operates), the page had some interesting and unique features I really liked. The "quote board," a series of quotes with links to the articles from which the quotations came, was a nice enhancement. The interviews at the bottom of the page were with interesting and compelling subjects, such as RZA, LeVar Burton and Joe Rogan. The Journal-Sentinel has a decent response to CNN's offering, but the national coverage CNN provides gives it the nod (even though I hated the mindless paparazzi photos on the top left of the entertainment page.

The tech page had a completely different look than the entertainment one, which I guess makes sense, but still surprised me. As opposed to the cool window look of the first page, the tech section had more of a glorified list format to it. The featured stories headline caught my eye. How do you control a computer with a banana? That link will tell you how. However, compared to the non-existent JS Online technology page, CNN wins again.

The thing that stood out to me about CNN's health page was the wide range of topics the top stories covered. Everything from weight loss, to sexual orientation, to autism littered the front page. Evaluating multiple aspects of the health genre makes this page debatably Ms. Lowe's strongest. The Journal Sentinel's health page was again a news feed-like list of articles pertaining to health and fitness. CNN continues its national dominance.

The living section of CNN provided quite an eclectic mix of stories. The challenge with this page is determining what doesn't fit in its broad definition. As such, the LGBT story I linked in the last paragraph from the health section also appeared in the living category. The section had some great stories, but my problem with it is I don't ever see myself saying, "hey, I want to read some articles about living." It's too general and too broad. The Journal Sentinel agrees, since lifestyle is a category with links to sub-categories instead of its own page. Still, CNN had more compelling stories, such as this one about high schoolers trying to racially integrate their prom. CNN wins again. 

I was hooked on CNN's travel page from the second I saw the featured story. I mean, who doesn't want to read about my hometown of Seattle's tourism bump since legalizing marijuana in the fall? Am I right or am I right? Anyways, it was nice to see the old stomping grounds get a shoutout, but perhaps the most compelling part of the page were the photos. The one titled "Bizarre Buildings" led to a slideshow and article about some of the weirdest buildings in Europe. Cool! The JS's effort at a travel page? The top story is about bikes. Not exactly eye-catching.

Overall, CNN mops the floor with the Journal Sentinel's online coverage in Ms. Lowe's five categories. Even though the JS dominates on the local level, it cannot handle the national prestige and coverage of CNN.
 
 
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The religion blog roll on the Journal Sentinel website has quality stories, but needs more regular updates.
Before this assignment, I had no idea that the Journal Sentinel even had a religion beat. But, upon further review and some navigating of the tabs at the top of the JS online homepage, I discovered an occasionally updated religion story roll in a back channel area of the website.

The top two feature articles on the roll were an article about a potential abusive priest (why is this always a common theme?) and the union of two congregations of different Christian faiths. The second story is unique and totally worthy of the feature it received. Annysa Johnson's feature covered a great story that I loved reading about.

On that page, I found a link to a photo gallery of Easter Celebrations across the globe. The gallery contained 30 pictures, and the photography was quite strong. I am a big fan of original content though, and since the photos were from all around the world, it's pretty obvious that the JS took the pictures from other websites. That's kind of cheating.

The same author of the story on the merging congregations, Ms. Annysa Johnson, has her own blog on JS online called FaithWatch. Some of the posts looked interesting, such as this one on a rabbi talking about slavery. However, she doesn't update the blog enough. The last post came March 27, and that was before Holy Week started. I'm not sure how you can fail to blog on religion during the most important week of the year for catholics.

Overall, I feel that the JS could cover religion with more depth and regularity but Johnson picks her spots well and writes solid features on interesting topics.


 
 
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Vander Blue flew high with 29 points Saturday, but Mike Hunt's story focused on the dog fight nature of the game.
On Saturday night, Marquette's men's basketball team advanced to its third consecutive Sweet 16. It defeated sixth-seeded Butler in perhaps the best game of the 2013 NCAAs. I wasn't able to travel to Lexington to cover the game, but Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was, and he filed a recap titled "Marquette gets a sweet sensation."

Firstly, Hunt's lead surprised me, since I figured he would certainly write it anecdotally. Instead, Hunt made his story's point right off the bat. He connected Marquette's success in the tournament to its success in the Big East season, which led to their first Big East regular season title. Hunt credited Marquette's "undeniable toughness" for late wins in recent days over both Butler and Davidson.

I thought Hunt made a strong choice in going with the lead he did. An anecdotal lead may have beaten around the bush more than he wanted, and he clearly wanted to leave no doubt about the importance Marquette's toughness.

Hunt also put his nut graph in the third paragraph right after the lead. His nut graph not only told the reader why he wrote the story, but also why he wrote it now. Every good nut graph should do that, and Hunt pulled the feat off impressively.

I found it interesting that Hunt had good quotes, but chose not to incorporate any until the tenth paragraph of the story. Maybe he did this because his lead wasn't anecdotal but descriptive, and he wanted to avoid letting his interviewees tell the story. Regardless, I would've liked to see a quote higher up, since they help move articles along.

The most powerful part of Hunt's story was when he used a four-word paragraph to drill home the main point of his story. He prefaced it by saying Marquette did what they do best when the game was on the line, and followed that up by writing "they got mad-dog mean." His whole story is about Marquette's grittiness and toughness, and so having that one phrase set apart from anything else strengthened his argument considerably.

Hunt does a great job with his Marquette basketball analyses, and this was no exception. Another article on Marquette that I liked came from Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports, who wrote about Buzz Williams' hectic week in Lexington, Ky. 
 
 
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The video bar on the Journal Sentinel's home page is buried below the entertainment section and the main buffet of articles.
I don't know if this is a universally held viewpoint, but when I come to a website to view news content, I want the clear opportunity to view multimedia. 

My favorite website on the Internet, ESPN.com, will almost always a have a play button right smack in the middle of their top story. That play button will usually begin a video that supplements the article linked in the description of the video running below the picture the button is on.

On the top of the home page of Journal Sentinel's website, no such play button exists. The front page only contains links to articles and photos. To find the magical play button, I have to scroll down past the entertainment section to a bar called "videos," that houses all of the relevant, watchable content produced by the JS and their media partners. I shouldn't have to scroll almost halfway down the page to find what a lot of people with short attention spans would consider the most interesting part of the website.

The top video featured in the bar tells the inspiring story of an adult swim team raising money for their coach who was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. The producer used nice b-roll of the swimmers swimming while they voiced over over the clip. I did think that some of the cuts between audio clips could have been smoother. However, the natural sound produced by the swimmers gliding through the water gave the video an authentic feel. 

When I continued investigating the video selection, I noticed the sports videos were found at a different URL than most JS content. The JS seems to have a partnership with Cinesport, a website that "produces and distributes premium sports video highlights and programming to local media web sites on a daily basis." I like that the JS cares enough about their sports video content to export it to an organization that only focuses on producing quality content. The video I watched was about the Badgers losing to Ohio State and getting a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. It featured JS Badgers beat writer Jeff Potrykus.

The Journal Sentinel is good with video. But they need to let more people know that by putting it front and center on their home page. They could draw significantly more views to their videos by using that magically little play button.
 
 
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Chris Otule had his best game at Marquette Saturday, and Mike Hunt highlights him in his game story
Since I wrote a recap of the Marquette-Notre Dame game for the Marquette Tribune's website on Saturday, I was curious to see how Michael Hunt, the Journal Sentinel beat writer for Marquette basketball, recapped the contest in comparison to my effort.

The main difference I noticed in our stories was that Hunt waited for Marquette coach Buzz Williams, Marquette point guard Junior Cadougan and Notre Dame coach Mike Brey to finish speaking before posting. As a result, he used quotes to color the body of his recap. 

In my story, I chose not to use quotes and to instead provide a straightforward recap. As part of our writing style at the Tribune, we like to leave the quotes for our analysis article that appear in the paper on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In the future, I may wait just long enough to work in good quotes from Buzz and other players that discuss relevant statistics and key points of the preceding game. 

Hunt also began his story with a strong anecdotal lead, something my story lacked somewhat. Although my story did mention the perfect home record Marquette boasts in 2012-13, I went right to the score in the opener. Hunt weaved in a solid lead, which discussed the game as potentially the "last time for a long time" the two teams would play and then designated the contest as an "experience to remember."

The strength of Hunt's two paragraph lead allowed him to write five consecutive paragraphs without quotes. That kind of lead really enhances a sports article, but also requires a lot of preparation to perfect. I will try to bring an anecdotal lead or two to my online recaps in the future, in order to grab readers and have them read through all of the trends the next few paragraphs highlight.


 
 
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Brewers first baseman Mat Gamel was set to fill in for the departed Prince Fielder, until an ACL injury derailed his 2012 season.
For my profile assignment, I decided to find an article written by the renowned Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sports desk. It didn't take me long to find what I was looking for, as an article on the Brewers' first base situation written by Todd Rosiak popped up.

The article profiles Brewers' first baseman Mat Gamel. Gamel, a fourth round pick of the Brewers in 2005, was tabbed as Prince Fielder's replacement in 2012 after Fielder, who played all 162 games in 2011 at first for Milwaukee, joined the Detroit Tigers in free agency. 

Tragically, Gamel tore his ACL trying to catch a pop fly against the San Diego Padres in just his 21st game of last season. Brewers outfielder Corey Hart replaced Gamel and succeeded. Gamel was forced to watch Hart thrive in his place, even though, according to Rosiak, Gamel felt "like I could help if I was healthy." 

But this year, Gamel will have his opportunity, as Hart injured his knee in the offseason, and Gamel will likely start at first for at least the first month of the year. Gamel says he's excited and that he's almost 100 percent after midseason surgery.

I thought Rosiak's profile was solid overall. His one sentence anecdotal lede carried a lot power, even though it made a brief, general statement. The connotation of regret and missed opportunity in the sentence, "Last year was supposed to be the year Mat Gamel began fulfilling his promise" stands out prominently. 

A choice that Rosiak made that I found interesting was his use of "(stuff) happens" in one of Gamel's quotes. In my mind, the parentheses imply that Gamel said "shit happens" and because "shit" is profane, an editor or Rosiak changed the word in the quote. I don't agree with the change, since "shit happens" is a popular expression that doesn't use the swear word in a cursing manner. Nobody really says "stuff happens," and I though having "shit" in there would have made the quote more realistic.

Overall, I was impressed by Rosiak's storytelling style and the way he crafted the profile. His article makes me want to follow Gamel throughout spring training and into the 2013 season, which is just over a month away.
 
 
OK, I get it. Packers fans are still bitter after getting wiped off the face of the Earth by Colin Kaepernick in the divisional playoffs. But JS Online was obligated to do some sort of coverage of the big game, since in the end, football rules Wisconsin. However, at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, this was the home page of JS Online:
Hey look! Trent Lockett! Now to be fair, Marquette was playing Louisville in a nationally televised game at the time, but still. We're talking about the super bowl here. It does manage to get some billing, right above the Wisconsin basketball live box score, but only in a Packer-centric way. 

Here's the home page at 5:48 p.m., right at the start of the game:
Notice Marquette is now gone, Wisconsin is still in the same place and now we have a live blog with JS writer Tom Silverstein. Silverstein does these during all Packer games, and I think having him do one for the Super Bowl was a good move on the JS's part. The "blog" link went to a page that looked like this: 
And this:
Silverstein answered a lot of questions from a Packer perspective, such as the one above where he compares Packers tight end Jermichael Finley to 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. Something that surprised me was when I went back at 12:50 a.m. to see what their post game coverage was like, the Super Bowl link was no longer the main story. Southwest Airlines' new ad for Milwaukee flights had taken over. 
It's weird that just three hours after the biggest sporting event of the entire year had ended, it was immediately relegated to the bottom right corner of the homepage, like any other story would be. Clearly, the Journal-Sentinel just wanted to do as much as they had to and then be done with covering a Packer-less championship game.